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Generic SDR-bAsed Multifunctional spAce LINK

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All-in-one nanosatellite communications solution

Terrestrial communications are far more advanced than those applied to link satellites in space. An EU-funded project has changed this with a new communication system providing an internet-like networking environment in space.

Digital Economy

The two-year GAMALINK (Generic SDR-based multifunctional space link) project brought together small- and medium-sized enterprises and research institutes with complementary expertise in terrestrial communications and space technologies. Their main goal was to engineer a new solution for inter-satellite links (ISLs) based on software-defined radio (SDR) technology. Communications radio systems run protocols referred to as waveforms that include all functions necessary to transmit information from one radio to another. SDR allows the development of different waveforms using the same piece of hardware, resulting in tremendous weight savings. The flexibility of this technology enables changes to be made if a failure occurs in orbit. The GAMALINK team designed an SDR platform capable of supporting mobile and ad hoc networking, global positioning systems and attitude determination of nano- and pico-satellites. All subcomponents manufactured were tested before being integrated into a first prototype. These include antennas and driving radio frequency front-end together with signal acquisition and processing units. On top of the radio hardware platform, different techniques were implemented for communications. The concept of mobile ad hoc networking does not require dedicated infrastructure, management or monitoring. The self-organisation of ad hoc networks guarantees the autonomy needed for small satellites flying in formation and provides connectivity in the challenging space environment. The GAMALINK communication platform also delivers accurate position determination using global positioning systems. Specifically, absolute position and timing information are provided that may be used to achieve synchronisation between the satellites. The project's breakthrough is the offer of an all-in-one solution for communications, attitude and orbit control. The GAMALINK technology enables ISLs, thereby ensuring that lower cost constellations of nano- and pico-satellites can provide critical data in a timely fashion with full coverage of the Earth. The first GAMALINK-enabled satellite mission was planned for launch in 2015, marking a step forward in the space market.

Keywords

Small and medium-sized enterprises, inter-satellite links, software-defined radio, ad hoc networking, global positioning systems

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29 August 2019